I wasn't alone. There were many first-time attendees there. It seems that I'm not the only one beginning to suspect that there's a problem that needs fixing. We were welcomed with warm smiles and firm handshakes by the party stalwarts. Two party hopefuls pitched appeals for party support in next year's elections.
The first candidate was a likely young man determined to be the next secretary of state for California. Not only did he make a good appearance and speak well, but also he had a compelling story to tell. Remember the City of Bell, California? That's the one where five of six elected officials were convicted of multiple counts of misappropriating funds and paying themselves huge salaries while raising taxes on residents. The City Manager was also convicted and became the face of government run amok. Interestingly, the candidate I listened to was hired as a consultant to turn the city around, and he did. Magnificently. Bell now has an excellent credit rating and one of the most transparent budgeting processes in municipal government. This candidate focused on engaging the public in the city's decision-making process. Citizens who used to refer to their city hall as “The Kremlin” now participate regularly in self-governance. He accomplished all this during a time while other California cities are following Detroit into bankruptcy courts.
This candidate for the party's nomination went on to outline how he believes that he can use the power of the Secretary of State to repeat his performance and help the state and other counties and municipalities duplicate the success he had in the City of Bell. It sounded reasonable.
The second candidate is a member of the California legislature who has set his sights on being the next governor. He used his experience tilting at windmills in his present office to incite the assembled party faithful to his cause. Unfortunately, he mistook oratory volume for passion. He began by whipping up the crowd with complaints about the social policies of the incumbent. His message may have had its appeal to many among that audience, but I imagine that this approach will invite the opposition to incite their base by focusing on their particular social agendas while ignoring the larger issues of California's economic woes.
Now, which candidate will the party support in the primaries and which will it not? Those are the questions that will be answered long before you or I reach the polls. Personally, I don't think that I can wait that long. Do you?